This post was written after the Spring bank holiday weekend (25 May), when face-to-face appointments were not possible due to the lockdown restrictions of COVID-19.

I am an outreach worker within a Multiple Needs Service run by Solace in collaboration with FLIC. I work with women experiencing issues around abuse/violence from others, mental health, homelessness, substance misuse, offending behaviour and other multiple disadvantages. 

Tuesday 
After a long weekend, I attempt to call all the women I support to check on their wellbeing. I feel guilty about the extra time off, but also know I need these breaks to look after myself. I remind myself that these women are incredibly resilient and have safety plans that we have worked on together. 

am able to speak to some of the women and we have a good catch up. Last week one of them had to move out of her mixed-gender hostel as she was experiencing abuse from an ex-partner and from other residents. It’s typical for women living in mixed gender homeless hostels to experience abuse from residents. Thankfully, she has been moved to a specialist refuge for women who have fled violence. She says she is settling in well and is very happy there and is sleeping properly for the first time in ages because she finally feels safe. 

I am grateful that all my clients have benefits, accommodation and access to a mobile so we can stay in contact, some of my colleagues have clients without mobiles that are rough sleeping and they do not know if they are okay.

I wonder if the women I can’t reach have experienced incidents of abuse over the weekend, or if they have had an increase of using drugs or alcohol to cope with the trauma they have experienced and the increased isolation from the impact of COVID-19. Or maybe they simply just do not want to talk to me, which is also okay. 

Wednesday 
I have the daily Zoom check-in with colleagues. The contrast in our situations to those of our clients, has been further highlighted by COVID-19 - whereas my colleagues and I are receiving lots of peer support, the vulnerable women we work with are more isolated than ever and spending increased time with perpetrators. 

I have lots of phone and video calls throughout the day with some of the women. We speak about boundaries, the tactics of perpetrators and safety planning, to help keep them safe from others. 

One woman (who experiences abuse and struggles with mental health issues and alcohol dependency) tells me she has lived feeling very uncertain, anxious and alone for years and now the pandemic is giving everyone else a glimpse of what her life is like. 

Thursday 
One woman grew up experiencing abuse and was in and out of care. She eventually ran away from home as a teenager and became street homeless. On the streets she was abused by lots of other people, falling into a cycle of being passed between prisons, homeless hostels and rough sleeping. To cope with the experiences of trauma she uses crack cocaine and heroin. She is desperately trying to decrease her drug use and is on a methadone prescription. We would usually attend the drugs service regularly, but due to COVID-19 these face-to-face check ins have stopped. 

Today she is too overwhelmed to deal with practical tasks, so I call the substance misuse support service on her behalf and request her methadone prescription. Thankfully, the duty worker is able to help and the woman’s progress isn’t brought to a stop. 

Friday 
Ahead of the weekend, I safety plan with the women around what to do if they feel unsafe and run through tips to protect themselves, whilst reminding them that it is not their fault if someone else chooses to be abusive to them. We also talk about who they should call if they have a mental health crisis and what activities they can do to keep themselves busy during the lockdown. 

I have not heard from one of the women for a while and have been speaking to other services to check if they have heard anything. She is highly vulnerable and struggles with mental health issues and addiction. I text her to let her know I am worried and will have to report her as missing to the police if I do not hear from her by Monday. 

I turn off my work phone, shut my laptop screen, and take a deep breath. 

If you or someone you know is affected by domestic abuse, you are not alone and can always call the National Domestic Violence Helpline at anytime on 0808 2000 247.

To address the heightened risk of sexual and domestic abuse within homeless settings during COVID-19, FLIC worked in partnership with St Mungo's, Standing Together, and Homeless Link to create guidance for staff in homeless settings. You can find it here. 

For more domestic abuse safety planning guidance during COVID-19 please take a look at Safe Lives’ guidance.